Even as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas takes effect, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is far from over. After 11 days of violence, the true impact continues to be uncovered and humanitarian aid remains desperately needed.
The daily devastation has destroyed critical infrastructure and razed entire communities in Gaza, exacerbating long-standing inequalities across health, food security, access to education, equity and justice, and more.
Tens of thousands of the 2 million Palestinian residents of Gaza have been displaced from their homes as a result of the latest escalation in violence and nearly two weeks of Israeli airstrikes. Dozens of schools have been destroyed, and many of those that remain now serve as shelters, further threatening Palestinian children’s access to education.
"If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday.
Water shortages and electricity blackouts — common aspects of life in the Gaza Strip — have become more extreme following Israeli bombings affecting desalination, sewage treatment, and power plants, according to the Guardian. In a region already plagued by limited resources, infrastructure and equipment, the most recent attacks have damaged 17 hospitals and clinics, as well as Gaza’s only COVID-19 testing lab, thereby worsening the region’s ongoing public health crisis.
The UN warned that the airstrikes by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) could cause a resurgence in COVID-19 as people crowd together in makeshift shelters, especially because much of the population remains unvaccinated even as Israel has a surplus of millions of vaccines, a situation that confounds vaccine equity in the region.
People gather at a water truck to fill bottles with clean drinking water on May 15, 2021 in Gaza. Gaza already suffered from a shortage of clean drinking water, but the current violence makes access to clean water significantly more difficult.
The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that food is becoming increasingly scarce and more expensive as people lose income and the flow of commodities from Israel, the primary way goods enter Gaza, stops. This is on top of the existing food insecurity in an area where roughly two-thirds of people struggled to get enough to eat prior to the attacks, according to WFP.
Gaza has long struggled with systemic economic and social inequity. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current violent crisis, 56% of the population lived in poverty.
Ceasefire is welcome. This is a delicate moment and we await definitive confirmation and implementation. The immediate focus must now be on getting vital humanitarian assistance to those who need it. @dfatirl @irishmissionun https://t.co/w48qS065Gr— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) May 20, 2021
Children, in particular, have been badly harmed by the violence. In the most recent crisis, at least 65 children have died in Gaza and 2 in Israel, and an entire generation of surviving Palestinian children risks facing extreme long-term trauma.
“Each and every day the conflict continues, children across the State of Palestine and Israel will suffer,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, in a statement. “These children need a ceasefire now, as well as a long-term political solution to the broader conflict. They deserve far better than this horrible cycle of violence and fear that has gone on for far too long.”
The UN, human rights groups, and advocates in both Palestine and Israel have worked tirelessly to end the violence that has already cost lives in both Palestine and Israel.
Global Citizen’s partners and other organizations are on the ground to provide relief during this humanitarian crisis. Here are four things you can do right now to support these partners and those impacted by the turmoil.
1. Support Urgent Health Needs
Organizations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians and Doctors Without Borders are scaling up medical operations in Gaza following attacks on hospitals and the rising number of people harmed by the bombings.
The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, whose offices have been bombed, focuses specifically on ensuring medical care for children. The International Medical Corps is providing emergency health care, COVID-19 protection, and mental health services, while UNRWA, the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees, and UNRWA USA are urgently seeking funding to support their services, including health centers, mental health and psychosocial services, and securing food trucks and fuel.
2. Support Access to Education
An entire generation of children in Gaza risk having their education derailed as a result of war and displacement. UNICEF is leading efforts to restore schooling in Gaza, while ensuring quality education across the entirety of Palestine.
Education Cannot Wait, meanwhile, is funding emergency education efforts through a multi-year educational response program launched in 2019, focusing on the most vulnerable and at-risk children and youth in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“Education Cannot Wait is underway preparing a First Emergency Response to provide immediate education support, including protection and mental health, to school aged children and youth, as well as teachers, in Gaza,” said Yasmine Sherif, executive director of Education Cannot Wait.
3. Support Food Security
As access to food deteriorates in Gaza, the WFP is stepping up by providing both cash and food packages to families as part of its years-long effort to support food security.
4. Support Equity For All
Groups such as Anera have been working for years to provide the residents of Gaza with basic rights and a dignified life, while organizations like the Norwegian Refugee Council are making sure children receive adequate support and resources. And members of The Legal Empowerment Network are providing support to Palestinians navigating the complex justice system severely disrupted by the ongoing conflict.
For a broader list of organizations to support, check out this resource page from the crowdfunding platform BuildPalestine.
Disclosure: Education Cannot Wait and the World Food Programme are funding partners of Global Citizen.